Someday, humanity may have to protect itself from both biological and technological viruses.
British scientist Mark Gasson of the University of Reading has become the first known human to infect himself with a computer virus. He actually did it on purpose, to point out the danger that exists in implantable microchips and other cyborg-like technology.
The situation isn’t quite as cool as it sounds, as Gasson only infected a computer chip inserted into his hand for research purposes. Still, it’s reported that he’s been relentlessly offering everyone around him mail-order Viagra.
The original purpose of Gasson’s implant was to give him access through security doors and to enable him to activate his cellphone. In his virus experiment, Gasson was able to infect external systems with the wave of a hand. He says: “With the benefits of this type of technology come risks. We may improve ourselves in some way but much like the improvements with other technologies, mobile phones for example, they become vulnerable to risks, such as security problems and computer viruses.”
While chip implants hold many possibilities to improve the quality of human life in the medical sector, they could also do the exact opposite if compromised. Professor Rafael Capurro of the Steinbeis-Transfer-Institute of Information Ethics in Germany believes Gasson’s work points out the negative aspects of relying on implants for medical surveillance and other purposes, saying: “Surveillance can be part of medical care, but if someone wants to do harm to you, it could be a problem.”
Computer chips that give humans extraordinary abilities or monitor bodily function may typically require some kind of outside access, also making them vulnerable to virus infection. In Gasson’s opinion, people could someday choose to have electronics implanted into themselves to “enhance memory or their IQ” if science makes it possible. This could lead to a computer virus spreading on a massive scale from person to computer to person, and so forth. You never know, the zombie apocalypse could end up happening someday not due to a biological infection, but a computer virus that takes over our future cyborg minds.